Index - here

Links - here

All newspaper articles and advertisements are from Papers Past - National Library of New Zealand or Trove - National Library of Australia unless otherwise stated

Photographer's negatives - the most common question I am asked relates to the current location of photographer's negatives - see this post. 

I'm not able to provide any information about photographers other than that on this site.  I'm am also not able to date photographs or assist you in identifying people in photographs you may have.  I am unable to assist in locating the current location of business records of any photographer.

I recommend the Auckland City Library's website for more information about New Zealand photographers -


 "Mr. Davis, a most obliging, kindly Englishman, and an excellent photographer"
A Trip to Samoa [February 1893] 
Sir Robert Stout, 13th Premier of New Zealand.

John Davis, born circa 1831 London, England [5], son of Charles Davis and Plaisance Anderson [11], arrived 13 December 1854, Sydney, Australia on the "Waterloo" [7] aged about 23 years, died 13 September 1903 Apia, Samoa, aged 72 years, married 23 February 1851, Park Chapel, Camden Town, St. Pancras, London [6], reg. Mar 1851  St Pancras, vol. 1, page 350, Jane How or Howe, arrived 13 December 1854, Sydney, Australia on the "Waterloo" [7].

Mr and Mrs Davis and child arrived at Sydney on the "Waterloo" on 13 December 1854, other passengers included Mr J Davis and Mr E Davis.
The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Thursday 14 December 1854, page 4 

The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 August 1909, page 6

Jane Davis probably died on 8 August 1909 at her residence Wallace Street, West Kogarth, aged 79 years 10 months. When this death was registered the parents of Jane Davis were given as John and Martha, registration number 9572/1909. Jane is believed to be the daughter of John and Martha Howe [7].

Host Perkins, of the Occidental [Auckland, New Zealand], has received a consignment of curiosities from Samoa, including a portfolio of photographs taken by Mr. S. Davis (probably J. Davis), a Sydney photographer, now travelling through the Navigator and Friendly groups.

Amongst these photographs are portraits of Samoan belles that would take the shine even out of a Circassian. The poet says that "beauty unadorned is adorned the most," and Perkins can show to his customers portraits of island beauties possessing "considerable personal attractions" which, in the language of the poet, would be considered "great adornments." He has in addition, rare native manufactures, barbed arrows, poisoned spears, murderous clubs, and a legitimate offspring of the great sea serpent, captured by natives of Vavau after an exciting chase.
New Zealand Herald, Volume XIII, Issue 4634, 20 September 1876, Page 2

We understand that Mr. Innes Willoughby Taylor, R.N., has been appointed Registrar, and his office is in the building next to Davis, the photographer, where the Court will also be held. Writs of summons, &c, will be given out to those applying for them, at the usual hours, from 10 to 1, and 2 to 4 p.m.

Samoa Times and South Sea Gazette, Issue 20, 16 February 1878, Page 2


NOTICE. J DAVIS, Photographer, in returning his sincere thanks to the community at large, begs to intimate that his stay in Samoa will be short.
Samoa Times and South Sea Gazette, Issue 26, 30 March 1878, Page 3 

 The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 August 1878, page 12

 Mr Davis was a passenger on the "Reconnaissance" which departed Apia on 6 May 1878 for Sydney via Wallis Island.

Samoa Times and South Sea Gazette, Issue 32, 11 May 1878, Page 2

After a short stay in Sydney he returned to Samoa on the "Reconnaissance", departing Sydney on 4 February 1879 and arriving in Apia via Tonga on 13 April 1879. When he returned to Samoa in 1879, John Davis would have been aged about 48 years and appears to have lived in Samoa continually until his death 24 years later.

His life can be divided into three periods of about 24 years, his early years in England, his middle years in Australia and final years in Samoa.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 February 1879, page 4 

Samoa Times and South Sea Gazette, Volume 2, Issue 76, 19 April 1879, Page 2

Photography.—Our old friend and photographer, Mr. John Davis, who returned from Sydney per Reconnaissance, has, we notice, again established himself in his old premises, at Matafele, and is now prepared, for those who desire it, to "secure the substance ere the shadow fades." 

We have been shown a very full true and accurate view of the harbour and town of Apia, from Matautu to Mulinuu Point. This picture has been very faithfully lithographed, by Messrs. S. T. Leigh and Co., of Sydney, from photographs taken by Mr. Davis. Persons wishing to give their friends abroad a correct idea of our town and harbour, cannot do better than send one of these pictures.
Samoa Times and South Sea Gazette, Volume 2, Issue 77, 26 April 1879, Page 2.

Latest from Samoa.
(From our own Correspondent.) Apia, Samoa, March 18... 
Also Supervisor Davies [sic], a photographer, and an egotistical ass from Sydney got up in a public meeting and in a self-glorification high-flyer speech assumed to himself great credit, for having as he alleged prevented the purchase of a building for a Court-house, which he alleged the U.S. Consul wanted the Municipality to purchase, but concerning which, however the Consul only informed the authorities at the time that he had been told that they could buy it for $3,000. Yet Davies [sic] did not seem to know that before he made his speech, the owner had advanced the price of his property to $3,500, and that instead of having benefited the Municipality, he had caused it a dead loss of $500 by what be alleged to be his act. And to exhibit still further their petty spleen against the Secretary of the Board the supervisors assessed his house, which was built for $700 two or three years ago, and which is not worth $500 now, at $800, or $100 more than it cost...
Auckland Star, Volume XI, Issue 3125, 27 April 1880, Page 2

In a late issue of the Samoa Times I observed some remarks on the scarcity of visitors to Samoa, but perhaps it is not to be wondered at that but few travellers extend their wanderings to such a remote corner of the globe. We have few lions to show any one who may stray this way, our delightful climate being the chief charm of Samoa. But our town is not absolutely without interest to visitors. There is at least one place in Apia which few strangers fail to visit, and that is the photographic studio of Mr. J. Davis.

Before putting foot in Samoa I had the pleasure of inspecting some of Mr. Davis' productions, and perhaps it was those charming pictures of nature, both animate and inanimate, which induced me to extend my rambles to the "Golden Isles of the Sunny South." Mr. Davis' photographs of the natives of Samoa and Tonga, and of the scenery of these two groups, are to be found in almost every part of the world, and any one wishing to convey to distant friends an idea of the far famed South Sea Islands cannot do better than despatch a few of Mr. Davis' pictures.

That Mr. Davis is a successful artist is made patent by the fact that his photos compare favorably with the productions of the galleries of Venice and Lima, two towns, which from the remarkable dryness and clearness of their atmospheres, are famous for the beauty of their photographic pictures.

Samoa Times and South Sea Gazette, Volume 3, Issue 144, 10 July 1880, Page 2

"Main Street of Samoa"  
The Occidental Hotel is the building on the left and across the road is the large two storied premises of Mr D. S. Parker
by John Davis, after 1886 
photograph courtesy of Mario Guerra.
 A copy of this photograph was published in the
Free Lance, Volume XV, Issue 740, 5 September 1914, Page 13

above - John Davis' photography premises and Post Office at Matafele. Davis was appointed Postmaster for the Kingdom of Samoa by decree of Malietoa Laupepa, King of Samoa on 20 December 1886. The area under the veranda appears to have been enclosed to provide the extra space required for the Post Office.

Apia, January 11.
A slight advancement with our Government has been the issuing of postage stamps for the kingdom of Samoa. They are neat and pretty. In the centre is a cocoanut [sic] palm bearing fruit; at the top is "Samoa Postage," and the values of each stamp are at the bottom. Their values range from 2s 6d down to 1/2d, and each has a distinct colour. The design originated from our postmaster, and its execution was carried out in New Zealand. The workmanship deserves to be highly commended.
New Zealand Herald, Volume XXIV, Issue 7860, 1 February 1887, Page 5

A collection of very interesting photographs have been received by Mr. Wildman, stationer, Victoria Arcade [Auckland], from Mr. J. Davis, photographer, Samoa, which in the light of recent troubles in these islands possess more than ordinary interest, and they are very meritoriously executed. The photos on view in the window yesterday, which are of cabinet size, included very striking likenesses of the rival kings, Maliotoa and Tamasese; also of a number of leading chiefs, and the ladies are not neglected for there are photos of the King's daughter (which king is not stated), a Samoan belle dressed up in the height of European fashion, and two princesses. These photos attracted a great deal of attention yesterday.
New Zealand Herald, Volume XXV, Issue 9232, 8 December 1888, Page 5

Samoa Times and South Sea Advertiser, Volume I, Issue 14, 5 January 1889, Page 1

The Great Hurricane of 1889.

  The Alexander Turnbull Library identify this as "the German corvette Olga wrecked at Apia, Samoa" during the hurricane of 16 March 1889.
Photograph by John Davis.
Ref: PAColl-3239-01.
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

 "Wrecked at Samoa"
The German Navy gunboat "SMS Adler" after the great hurricane of 1889.
Photograph by John Davis.
photograph courtesy of Mario Guerra

 American ships wrecked at Samoa
Photograph by John Davis.
photograph courtesy of Mario Guerra

At view of Apia Bay with the wreck of the "SMS Adler"
Photograph by John Davis.
photograph courtesy of Mario Guerra

A substantial two-storied building is in course of erection for Mr. John Davis, the photographic artist and postmaster. The gallery, on the upper floor, is well lighted, and commands a fine view of the harbour. The lower floor will be used for post office work, and will be fitted up in a much more convenient manner for the receiving and delivering of the mails than was afforded in the old building.
Samoa Times and South Sea Advertiser, 2 November 1889, Page 2

Samoa Times and South Sea Advertiser, Volume III, Issue 118, 24 January 1891, Page 2

In November 1892 an art exhibition was held at the Public Library in Apia where Davis exhibited a number of photographs.  At the exhibition, the Italian born painter Girolamo Nerli exhibited his penetrating portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson. This portrait was very much admired and is now in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Paintings by Joseph Dwight Strong were also exhibited; Strong was the husband of Stevenson's stepdaughter Isobel Strong.
Samoa Times and South Sea Advertiser, Volume IV, Issue 209, 5 November 1892, Page 3

Portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson, 1892.
by Girolamo Nerli 
(21 February 1860 – 24 June 1926)
Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

A Trip to Samoa  - Sir Robert Stout
...The village is called Matafele, for though Apia is a municipality it has several distinct native villages in its boundaries, each village with its church, its school, its native teacher, etc. Let us walk to Mulinuu from the centre of the town, and note what we see on our way. We leave W. McArthur and Co.'s warehouse, opposite a small jetty, and we note English names for a short distance — Merediths, Deans, etc., then German names, Krause, Grevsmuhl, etc. We pass a short space with no houses on our right, but we soon come to a part where there are houses on both sides a Chinese restaurant, a barber's shop, the post office, which is kept by Mr. Davis, a most obliging, kindly Englishman, and an excellent photographer; then a fine handsome hotel, the International, with a big verandah fronting the harbor; stores with all things for sale, groceries, tinned meats, and even feathers and finery for the Samoan belles...
Samoa Weekly Herald, Volume 1, Issue 11, 4 February 1893, Page 2

We are glad to learn that our old friend Mr. John Davis has recovered the spade guinea which he lost in the Vailele Plantation some time ago. The coin was picked up by a black boy, on whose neck Captain Hufnagel saw it suspended. Knowing, from the Samoa Times advertisement, that the owner would probably be found in Mr. Davis, the coin was brought into town, and returned to that gentleman, who was the owner as suspected. We are told that the advertisement was not too plain, as there was some uncertainty about the loss being a spade guinea, or a New Guinea spade. Excuse the joke. 
Samoa Times and South Sea Advertiser, 21 October 1893, Page 2


Samoa Times and South Sea Advertiser, Volume 6, Issue 379, 7 July 1894, Page 3

Presentation to the Rev. Alfred Carne.
As interesting little ceremony took place at the Mission house on Thursday afternoon, the occasion being a presentation to Rev, Alfred Carne, who with Mrs. Carne and family were passengers to Sydney on the "Mariposa." yesterday. The presentation took the form of an album of Samoan views beautifully finished and mounted by our old townsman Mr. John Davis.
Samoa Times and South Sea Advertiser, Volume 7, Issue 1, 6 October 1894, Page 3


 The grave of Hugh McGregor Reid died 16 August 1894, Apia
photograph by John Davis, Samoa
 (Robert Louis Stevenson died in Samoa on 3 December 1894)

Mr. Hugh McGregor Reid of Dunedin, New Zealand, died on Thursday afternoon last at the International Hotel, of influenza and brain fever. Deceased, who was quite a young man and one of the sons of Mr. Donald Reid [1], the senior partner in the well-known auctioneering and commission agency firm of D. Reid and Co., of Dunedin, arrived in Samoa four weeks ago, accompanied by Mr. Chick, who like himself was making the round trip. Deceased, who was in weak health, was about a fortnight ago attacked by the prevailing influenza epidemic, upon which an attack of brain fever supervened, which resulted in his death, notwithstanding the most unremitting care and attention from Dr. Hubor of S.M.S. Falke (who during Dr. Funk's absence is attending to his patients), and Mr. and Mrs. Partsch, the host and hostess of the International Hotel. His funeral, which took place yesterday, was well attended by local residents. The burial service was conducted by the Rev. W. E. Clarke.
Samoa Weekly Herald, Volume 2, Issue 90, 18 August 1894, Page 3

In April 1895 a large fire destroyed a number of buildings in Matafele including Davis' photographic Gallery and Post Office. Davis was undoubtedly the greatest loser - all his negatives - the result of over twenty years hard work were destroyed. His total estimated lost was 10,000, his insurance cover was only ₤1500, the net lose was therefore ₤8500.
Samoa Weekly Herald, Volume 2, Issue 123, 6 April 1895, Page 2

We are glad to find notice in the third page of this issue, that our old friend John Davis is almost ready to re enter the photographic arena. He saved his view camera from the fire and is now only waiting for stock of plates from the Colonies. We trust his friends will rally around him of old.
Samoa Times and South Sea Advertiser, Volume 7, Issue 27, 13 April 1895, Page 2

Samoa Times and South Sea Advertiser, Volume 7, Issue 27, 13 April 1895, Page 3

Mr. J. Davis is first in the field, after the late fire, he having already started a small building, for the purposes of a dark room and a printing room. It is Mr. Davis' intention to build a first class studio, at an early date.
Samoa Times and South Sea Advertiser, Volume 7, Issue 28, 20 April 1895, Page 2

Mr. J. Davis, our Samoa Postmaster, has been forced to issue a new stamp, which will be a great curio at some future time. Owing to the late fire, in which he lost nearly all his stamps, especially those of the twopenny denomination, he has had to cut shilling stamps into right angles, and they have to answer for twopenny ones. The effect is peculiar, and remind one of the old Cape of Good Hope stamps.
Samoa Times and South Sea Advertiser, Volume 7, Issue 29, 4 May 1895, Page 2

A pair of fine photographs of our I now Protestant Church have been  prepared by Mr. J. Davis, one photo being the exterior and the other the the interior. These two pictures are beautifully mounted, and are most suitable Xmas and New Year Gifts to our relatives and friends far away. Mr. Davis has generously promised to supply this pair of photographs to the Mission House only and at the exact cost of production, hence all profit arising from their sale will go towards the extinguishing of the debt on the church. From this day, Saturday, this pair of pictures will be on sale at the Mission House, price 1s 6d. each or 3s the pair, cash.
Samoa Weekly Herald, Volume 2, Issue 145, 14 September 1895, Page 2

Postmaster-General Davis of Apia is the most remarkable official in the world. The people ignore the government post office and go to Davis, who, under an arrangement with King Malitoa, prints his own postage-stamps and pockets the proceeds of the sales. They are recognized by other countries. The currency of the islands is the American, but English money is accepted.
Samoa Weekly Herald, Volume 3, Issue 39, 25 September 1897, Page 3

The New Zealand Graphic of July 30 [1898], has reproduced a photo taken by Mr. Davis, of the Apia Harbour in which is shown the warships in port also the Sophy Sutherland on the 23, May last.

Samoa Weekly Herald, Volume 4, Issue 33, 13 August 1898, Page 2


By our latest files from New Zealand we notice that our local photographers has several re-productions, which are of a high order. Mr. Davis has several in the Graphic and Mr. Henderson is to the fore in the Weekly News.
Samoa Weekly Herald, Volume 4, Issue 36, 8 October 1898, Page 2


On Sunday last, the 13th inst. Mr. John Davis, one of the few remaining Samoan pioneers, passed from this life after a few days illness; being 72 years of age. He arrived in Samoa about thirty years ago, and has resided here ever since. During the period of the Malietou Government, he was appointed Postmaster, and continued in that office until German annexation when he ceased to act; the international Post Union superseding all previous postal arrangement.

The deceased was very much respected and exceedingly popular, and will be greatly missed by many persons in this group. Always ready both by kind advice and substantial help, to further the interests of all who applied to him. He assisted many of the poor but in such a secret manner, that the amount of his gifts is known only to themselves. - As a photographer he was very successful in which department Mr. Tattersall assisted him. The latter continues this business. No will having hitherto been found, his property belongs to the next of kin who, no doubt, when they are made aware of his death, will take the necessary steps to protect their interests.

John Davis, like all who endeavour to do what little good they can to others in their lives, will be kept well in remembrance by those who benefitted by his actions -"Blessed is he that considereth the poor the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble." CUSTOS.

The funeral of the late Mr. John Davis took place on Monday afternoon, at 4 o'clock, and was attended by nearly all the white residents of Apia. It was perhaps the biggest funeral procession Apia has ever had, and shows esteem and respect in which the deceased was held by all. The coffin was bedecked with numerous floral tributes to the deceased, in the form of wreaths, crosses etc.

The Rev. W. Huckett performed the burial service at the grave. Amongst those present at the burial were His Excellency, the Governor; Judge, Dr. Schulz; the U.S. Consul-General Heimrod; the Acting British Vice-Consul, Trood and many other prominent citizens.

Samoanische Zeitung, Volume 3, Issue 25, 19 September 1903, Page 7

Samoanische Zeitung, Volume 3, Issue 25, 19 September 1903, Page 8

In the Supreme Court of New South Wales Probate Jurisdiction - In the estate of John Davis, late of Kent-street, Sydney in the State of New South Wales, and of Apia, Samoa, Photographer deceased, intestate.

Application will be made after fourteen days from the publication hereof that administration of the estate of the above named deceased may be granted to Walter John Davis, the eldest son of the deceased. And take notice it is intended to apply to have the usual administration bond dispensed with. And all creditors in the said estate are required to send in notice of their claims to the undersigned within the said period of fourteen days. CHARLES ALEXANDER WALKER, Proctor for the Administrator, 118 Pitt-street, Sydney.
The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Saturday 17 October 1903, page 2

Samoanische Zeitung, Volume 3, Issue 40, 9 January 1904, Page 10

 The steamer Atua has just arrived with passengers from Auckland and the Friendly Islands ... A little old man who has just landed ... limps along from the Bismarck wharf towards Mulinuu, and he seems to have something in view for he stops now and again as if to familiarise himself with the surrounding. He hesitates outside of Stopfkuchen's place and looks at the barber's polo, shakes his head and goes across the road to Mr. Davis' house where the legend "To Let" hangs in the window of the front room which was once a Post oflfice in the days of Samoa's Private mail system. The sign is taken down after a conversation with Tattersall the caretaker, and a half caste boy comes along with the old man's effects, consisting of two boxes, couple of trunks and a valise.

In another quarter of an hour the old man has changed his clothes and is busy clearing and rigging up the room. His work progresses so rapidly that at sundown everything is ready, and he puts on the final touch by hanging up a sign with the legend "S. J. Swaine Barber and Hairdresser."

Samoanische Zeitung, Volume 7, Issue 25, 22 June 1907, Page 7



Island Reminiscences.
by Custos
... John Davis, formerly in the Sydney mint established himself in Apia us a photographer in the seventies. He died in 1903. Latterly he was Postmaster. When he died his property amounted to more than in thousand pounds but his heirs, who received it would not erect a tombstone or mark in any way, the grave where the old man lay, and consequently his numerous friends here felt it their duty to subscribe a few, shillings each and mark the spot, with a cement enclosure...
Samoanische Zeitung, Volume 7, Issue 31, 3 August 1907, Page 10

The children of John and Jane Davis:
1.  Plaisance Sophia Davis, born circa 1856 NSW, reg. 17/1856, Sydney (indexed as Pleasant S. Davis), died 16 May 1941, at a private hospital, Enfield [9], buried Independent Cemetery, Rockwood [10] married circa 1881, 1123/1881 Sydney, Robert Donaldson, he died 18 September 1937 at this residence, 19 Barton Street, Enfield, aged 77 years.

 2. Walter John Davis (Accountant) born circa 1862, (eldest son, mother's name Jane), died 23 July 1934, aged 72 years [2],  reg. 15789/1934, married 30 November 1893 at Muswellbrook, Esther Isabel Priest [3],  she died 30 September 1926 at "Leamington" Private Hospital, Kempsey aged 55 years, daughter of Mr and Mrs Priest of Muswellbrook and a sister of Mr. T. Priest, storekeeper of Manilla, NSW [4]. 

Children:  Clare Davis, Essie Davis and Aubrey Davis.
In 1914 two photographs of Apia were published in the Daily Telegraph, these were loaned by Mr. W. J. Davis of Manilla.
Manilla Express (NSW), 5 September 1914, page 2

Manilla Express (NSW), 10 August 1934 page 2

Births registered in New South Wales where the parents are shown as John and Jane Davis:
5031/1855 V18555031 42B MARY J DAVIS
1718/1867 ARTHUR E. DAVIS SYDNEY (death registered 437/1868?)

[1] Minister for Public Works in the third Stafford Government, September to October, 1872
[2] The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July 1934, page 8
[3] Davis - Priest - November 30 [1893] at Muswellbrook, by the Rev. J. Thomas, Walter J. Davis to Esther Isabel (Etty), Priest. The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 23 December 1893, page 1345
[4] Manilla Express (NSW) 5 October 1926, page 2.
[5] D. A. T. Mee, The Samoa Express, Vol. 19, no. 4, December 2003, page 95
[6] Brian Buru, The Samoa Express, Vol. 20, no. 3, September 2004, page 65
[7] Brian Buru, The Samoa Express, Vol. 20, no. 3, September 2004, page 66
[8] Robert Donaldson died 18 September 1937 at this residence, 19 Barton Street, Enfield, husband of Plaisance Sophia Donaldson aged 77 years. The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Monday 20 September 1937, page 10.
[9] The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Saturday 17 May 1941, page 12
[10] The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Saturday 17 May 1941, page 11
[11] Brian Buru, The Samoa Express, Vol. 20, no. 3, September 2004, page 64